The Christopher Street bar — initially built as horse stables in 1840s — was the site of protests in 1969 seen by many as the start of the gay rights movement, when the openly gay clientele retaliated against a police raid.
Tuesday's vote was a rare move by the Commission, which often doesn't factor a building's cultural significance when deciding what to landmark, the commissioners said. It focuses on architectural value.
"This ain't a pretty building, it ain't a pretty piece of architecture," said Commissioner Michael Devonshire, an architectural conservator.
But, Devonshire said, "this fantastic spot represents that period of strength and dignity for the LGBT community that absolutely deserves our designation."
Equally rare was the support from the city's powerful real estate lobby, the Real Estate Board of New York.
"In terms of cultural landmarks, there are a lot of them that are proposed, but this is one where people across the world will visit," said REBNY urban planner Paimaan Lodhi. "So in my mind, this is something that is very worthy of designation."
Lodhi gave testimony Tuesday morning in support of landmark status, along with various elected officials, gay rights activists, historic buildings advocates and average New Yorkers.
It was also the first time that the commission has specifically landmarked a building that is already in a protected historic district — an "unprecedented move," according to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan.
A separate movement is afoot to turn Stonewall and nearby Christopher Park into a national park. A non-profit is holding a public meeting on that Tuesday night.
Some, including several electeds, pushed for the commission to also consider other sites of LGBT significance, like Julius' Bar, around the corner from Stonewall.
The campaign to include the other sites was launched by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation last year.
But longtime Villagers and local gay rights activists said there are several more sites that have equal significance to the ones highlighted by GVSHP.
Jim Fouratt, who said he was at the Stonewall uprising and was one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front and the AIDS activist group ACT UP, highlighted the first community center the GLF founded in a "non-descript" building on West Third Street, and the Cornelia Street building that once housed Caffe Cino, where he said Off-Off Broadway was born, among other sites.
"Everything seems to be centered on post-1969, because so many of us died of AIDS," Fouratt said, noting that many of the activists in the room were younger than him.
The LPC gave no indication that they plan to consider any other historic LGBT site in the city, though some commissioners said the vote on Stonewall is a turning point for them in general.
"This designation represents a challenge for us as a commission," said Commissioner Michael Goldblum, an architect. "It’s going to require us as a commission to develop the tools and new ways of thinking about broadening the definition of landmarks, and kind of expanding how one protects these very, very important cultural touchstones."
Noting that the LPC just celebrated its 50th anniversary, Goldblum said the challenge is "a great next step for the next 50 years."